The bereaved father of an autistic child who was killed by a caregiver while at a state-run group facility is now on a mission to stop other families from suffering the same loss.
“We didn’t know the extent to which it was a systemic problem,” said Michael Carey. “I didn’t know that most of the safety and abuse prevention measures weren’t in place. I had no idea. Most families are unaware of that, that a lot of these facilities are really not safe.”
Carey is currently traveling in an RV from upstate New York to Washington, D.C. to lobby for “Jonathan’s Law,” a rule to require that caregivers at group homes call 911 if any of their wards or patients are injured.
He stopped at Independence Mall in Philadelphia on Monday by the Liberty Bell to raise awareness of his belief that the disabled in group homes face unconstitutional discrimination.
“I’ve been fighting for a 911 law ever since Jonathan was killed,” Carey said of his 13-year-old autistic son, who was killed by a caregiver at a group home in 2007. Carey’s son had suffered multiple injuries while in care without any 911 calls being made.
"The problem is 911 is not being called when someone is hurt or abused," he said.
He believes a law requiring these state-funded facilities to call 911 for every injury might have led to intervention by law enforcement before his son was killed and could protect other people currently living in group homes.
He accused the CEOs of organizations that operate group homes of covering up injuries and not calling 911 when patients or clients are hurt because it could endanger their federal and state funding.
“Because they want to keep their $400,000 a year salary and make sure their facility looks like it’s safe, they’ll tell staff to cover it up, to keep things from police,” Carey said. “They’re not protecting the disabled. They’re protecting the abusers. ... How they’re able to get away with it is avoiding 911."
Carey not only wants new laws, but also argued that the U.S. Department of Justice should commence a criminal and civil rights investigation into the treatment of people with disabilities at group homes in New York.
Reforms to how these homes are operated, including background checks, standardized training, a 60-hour cap on work and drug testing for staff would also improve the situation, he said.
Visit jonathancareyfoundation.org to learn more.